On the Road – and at the Races!

On the Road – and at the Races!

I’m sorry the blog has been more silent than usual lately – that’s changing, starting now. I’ve been quiet mostly because I’ve been climbing, and I have a ton of exciting moments to share! The #100Summits journey has taken me halfway across Japan, 1,100 kilometers north of Tokyo, to the northernmost major island, Hokkaido.

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To Hokkaido . . . In The Wake of the Quake

To Hokkaido . . . In The Wake of the Quake

I started planning the 100 Summits Project a year ago, and even then I knew the most difficult region of Japan in which to climb would be Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost major island. Most of Hokkaido lies beyond the northernmost terminus of the Shinkansen (bullet train) which ends its run at Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto terminal, 1,099 kilometers from Tokyo but only at the southernmost end of Hokkaido itself. From there, it’s almost a full day’s ride by express train to the northern end of the island – and the hyakumeizan peaks are scattered across Hokkaido like a handful of dice flung down by an angry

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The Headless Buddhas of Koboyama

The Headless Buddhas of Koboyama

While hiking Koboyama, I passed many shrines and temple buildings, indicators of the mountain’s history and holy status. However, the most poignant of these was not identified with a roadside sign, or even set at a noticeable place along the path. About twenty minutes past the summit of Koboyama, I came across a row of carved stone buddhas by the side of the trail. Each had been decapitated–and someone had replaced their heads with stones.

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Hiking Kōbōyama (Part 2)

Hiking Kōbōyama (Part 2)

Last week’s high-temperature, high-humidity hike in Kanagawa Prefecture took me to the summits of three more peaks: Sangenyama, Gongenyama, and Kōbōyama. (For the story and photos from the first two peaks, click here.) The trail from Gongenyama’s summit down the ridge toward Kōbōyama starts off a highly civilized set of stairs with trees on either side. At the foot of the stairs, a short section of trail leads to a parking lot where people who prefer to drive to the summit, rather than hiking, can leave their vehicles for the 15-minute stair-walk to Gongenyama.

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Hiking Sangenyama, Gongenyama and Kōbōyama (Part 1)

Hiking Sangenyama, Gongenyama and Kōbōyama (Part 1)

Last week I braved the 90-degree temperatures in Kanagawa Prefecture (south of Tokyo) to continue my 100 Summits journey with a “station to station” hike that included a traverse of three different mountains: Sangenyama, Gongenyama, and Kōbōyama. Since these three peaks are separate mountains, rather than a single “compound peak,” they count as three toward my 100 Summits Project goal and bring the current total to 22. (The August heat has slowed me down, largely for safety reasons but also because I’m working on finding a long-term rental apartment, which is challenging in Japan when you have a cat! But I

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Taking a Cat to Japan – Part 1

Taking a Cat to Japan – Part 1

Our decision to spend a year in Japan for the #100Summits Project depended, in part, on our ability to take our cat, Oobie, along on the journey. My husband and I believe that “pets are for life” and we wouldn’t have dreamed of leaving her behind. However, since Japan is a rabies-free country, entry requirements for pets are strict (see also: “draconian” – but with good reason) and it took us almost a year to ensure that Oobie could enter without undergoing extended quarantine.

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Climbing Shiroyama

Yesterday I climbed Shiroyama, 562-meter peak in Yugawara, Kanagawa Prefecture–the 19th mountain of my #100Summits Project here in Japan. The mountain takes its name from the castle that once sat atop its peak. (“Shiroyama” means “Castle Mountain” in Japanese.) Although only scattered ruins and a monument on the summit remain to mark the spot today, during the 12th century Yugawara (then called Doi-go) and its castle were home to the Doi samurai clan.

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A Visit to Zao Fox Village (Fukushima, Japan)

A Visit to Zao Fox Village (Fukushima, Japan)

In between climbing mountains for the #100Summits project, I’m also visiting sites of cultural and historical significance across Japan. Yesterday, my husband and I hopped a shinkansen (bullet train) to Fukushima Prefecture–a little less than 250 kilometers–to visit one of Japan’s most unusual sanctuary/zoos: Zao Fox Village. As the name suggests, the park is a combination zoo and sanctuary for foxes (known as “kitsune” in Japan). Among Japan’s most honored creatures, kitsune are considered messengers of Inari Okami, one of the most important deities in the Shintō pantheon.

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An Afternoon in Kamakura

An Afternoon in Kamakura

With temperatures in Tokyo soaring to near record-breaking levels, I’ve taken a few days off from my #100Summits climbs (though the adventure continues this weekend . . . so stay tuned!). Since my husband hasn’t seen much of Japan, we decided to spend this afternoon in Kamakura–a coastal city southwest of Tokyo that served as the political center of Japan during the Kamakura Period (1185-1333), when Japan was ruled by the Minamoto shoguns. Although my mystery novels are set in the 16th century–long after Kamakura ceased to function as a center of Japanese culture and government–I love this ancient city, and

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